Middleborough native Tyler Horan built his reputation as a winner during his time at Boston College High, helping the Eagles capture back-to-back state titles in baseball (2008-09) and leading them to a Division 1 Eastern Mass. Super Bowl title in 2008. After a redshirt season with Virginia Tech in 2010, he's been demonstrating more of that explosive power out of the batter's box he showed as a raw 16-year-old.
This past spring, Horan hit .282/.400/.585 totals in 54 games in left field for the Hokies, ranking fourth in the Atlantic Coast Conference in on-base percentage. He led the Hokies in RBI (41) and home runs (15) and ranked second in total bases (110).
After participating in the Home Run Derby at the last month's College World Series in Omaha, Horan has been tearing it up a mere 25 minutes down the road for the Cape Cod League's Wareham Gatemen. He's currently hitting .329/.391/.633 with an OPS of 1.024, leading the Gatemen in average and sitting tied for fourth in the league with six home runs.
Horan spoke with ESPNBoston.com before batting practice at Spillane Field on Thursday afternoon, before the Gatmen took an 8-1 loss to Hyannis.
Q: You took batting practice with the team at Fenway on Wednesday. How did that feel?
A: "It was definitely different. You grow up watching them and everything, you're watching all your favorite players out there, and you never expect to be out there hitting in the same place they are. On TV, the field looks big, but then when you're on the field and you crush a ball...for me, as a lefty, I crush a ball to right field, and I'm like 'Wow, these guys are hitting shots'. It's definitely a cool experience being able to play on the same field that they do."
Q: When you cracked one to right, did you envision Papi at all?
A: "A little bit. Definitely since he was my idol, especially coming out of BC High when I was a DH until my senior year. I'm a big, left-handed DH, and then obviously Papi is a huge left-handed DH. It just kinda fit to be watching him."
Q: You were in the College Home Run Derby last month, and you have six home runs right now. What's the adjustment typically like going from college to this level?
A: "For me, I don't think it was quite as bad, because our college is sponsored by Easton bats. We get Easton bats, and they have a black bat they call their 'speed bat', and a white bat their 'mass bat'. I use the white one, so it's already top-heavy, similar to the wood bats we use. So, the adjustment for me, I don't feel is quite so different. But then as far as pitching goes, maybe for the mid-weeks you're going to see a lot better pitching than you would in our mid-week games, but the ACC pitchers are also very good.
"You come here, and you're gonna see everybody's best pitcher. Whether that's a mid-week game or not, it's going to be their best starter, their best closer. You're always seeing the best of the best."
Q: Do you recall the first time you watched Cape League?
A: "I caught a couple games when I was real young, but a lot of times Little League would interfere, especially in our town. So I didn't catch too many games, but I've always been hearing about it. And then you see the movie 'Summer Catch' and you'll hear about it and go, 'Oh, that's right down the street from me, that'd be cool to play there some day'.
Q: Do you think about the Major Leaguers that have come through here, and the allure of the league?
A: "A lot of people say this is the last step before you make it to the minors for a lot of people. So thinking about it that way, it's really cool. It puts a lot of pressure on you, though, to try and...It's a scout's league, so you have to do your best, and just show off what you've basically. But at the same time, stay within yourself, and not let all the pressure get to you. Joe Carter at the Home Run Derby, he probably gave me the best advice -- to make it to the next level, everything's mental, because everybody has similar talents at this level, so it's all in your head."
Q: Building on that, talk about your experience in Omaha at the Home Run Derby.
A: "Oh, they treated us awesome, I couldn't have expected anything more. I had a king size bed, I had a jaccuzzi in my room and everything. It was an unbelievable experience, they were real nice to everybody. The fans loved it. Omaha just lives for baseball. I think there were 22,400 fans -- that's a rough number, but it was around that -- easily the biggest crowd that I've ever played in front of.
"It's also different because, instead of having the whole team out there, and thinking they're probably watching someone else -- no, all 22,400 are staring at you. And you don't have the safety of the turtle or anything, it's just completely different out there hitting. It's a rush. You get those butterflies, and for me once I got that first ball out, it's almost like, now I can loosen up and get it going."
Q: What was more rewarding for you at BC High -- winning two state championships in baseball, or winning a Super Bowl in football?
A: "That's a tough one. I don't know if I can separate the two. Honestly, I might have to say football because it was only the second or third time in school history that it's ever been done. In baseball, we were expected to go pretty far, and football it wasn't seen quite the same way. And then the hype for the football games, it builds up all to that one game. I can't really say, because either way all that dedication, all of your work goes into all three of those championships."
Q: Peter Hughes redshirted you for your first year at Virginia Tech. Was it just getting acclimated to year-round baseball?
A: "Yeah, it was that, and like you were talking about with the football question, I was very raw. My sophomore year of high school, I thought I was going to play football, so I didn't play summer baseball at all. I just worked on hitting the weight room, getting as big as I could as fast as I could, and it helped me in football but made me a raw but natural talent for baseball. When I got to college, after seeing pitching here -- Northern pitching isn't as good as Southern, because they can do everything all year round.
"Especially the year I came in, we had Jesse Hahn, Matt Price and Justin Wright -- all guys that can throw over 90. I remember the first time I got in the box, it was Jesse Hahn, and [whooshing noise] like that, it must have been 95 and I was like 'Oh man' [laughs]. It was definitely a good thing, I'm glad I redshirted. Once you get to this time, I have an extra year of eligibility, so I have negotiation in the draft. I definitely needed that year to adjust. I learned so much from baseball that year. Even when they traveled on the weekends, I'd go to the hitting building and work on all that stuff. I definitely worked really hard that year, but it paid off."
Q: What did you need to improve upon most?
A: "I had to adjust to the speed of the game at that point. It was just purely adjusting to the speed of the game -- the pitching, the speed, knowing different things on the basepaths, what to look for as an outfielder, what to look for in counts, where I should be playing. After I got that down, now I'm working on cutting down on my strikeouts, adjusting my swing a little bit, trying not to be so jumpy at the plate. My power numbers have always been good, I haven't been worried about those. I wanted to get my average up, because if my average goes up, my power numbers also go up because it's just running into more balls and eventually they go out."
Q: You're good friends with Eddie Campbell [a Bridgewater-Raynham alum and Horan's Virginia Tech teammate, currently playing for the Harwich Mariners]. How is the banter? Any smack talk?
A: "Eddie's dealing right now [laughs]. Me and Eddie, it's not too much, you always wish each other the best. My roommate who is also on Harwich, Clark Labitan, me and him got a little crap talk going back and forth. The thing with him is always, I live with three pitchers [at Virginia Tech] and I haven't gotten a hit off him or any or my other roommates yet. So, he'll go on Twitter and be like 'The hitless streak continues' and tag all of my other roommates in it. I can't wait until I get that hit, I'm going to be all over him. It's all friendly smack talk, but it's good."
Q: What lessons did you take from BC High that you still hold with you in college and the Cape League?
A: "I'd probably say their whole thing of men for others is their big thing, just helping with the community. My coach Peter Hughes, he went to BC High, so he played under Norm Walsh also. He follows those too. We have this program called '19 Ways', which every year we try to do 19 things to help the community. It all falls in line. Treat everyone the way you want to be treated.
"You see little kids come up to you for autographs, you make their day and just sign it. Live for the day, I guess."
Q: For a kid who aspires to play in the Cape League one day, what's the life like?
A: "Stressful at times, definitely. You could be playing every day, you get tweaks here and there. I'd say it's stressful, but at the same time you've got to keep your head up. You've got to be good to fail at baseball, because if you're average, you're .333. I'm batting .333 right now, but that means two out of every three times I'm failing. You've always got to keep your head up and have a short term memory to be a good baseball player."